Friday, July 19, 2013

Keep Calm and Step Away From the Books!

You may have noticed that there tends to be a heavy emphasis on the literature aspect when it comes to the Charlotte Mason method. Now, don't get me wrong, I love books. Nope, "love" isn't strong enough a word.  Adore. Revere. Borderline worship. There's nothing quite like the smell of a book (new and old alike) or the weight of one in your hand...I cart one around with me whether I'm going to have time to read it or not. My husband would consider that there are far too many books stacked all over our home, in every book and cranny possible. It should also be noted that you can never ever have too many book shelves.

Don't worry, I am very aware of my potential issue - that I am possibly one family crisis away from being an unequivocal book hoarder in need of an intervention. I'm dealing with it. Sort of. :)

With all that said, here comes the but...

Our society in general loves to place books on this pedestal - higher than, more important than and better than any other medium for learning. And with the Charlotte Mason method, the idea I see pushed at times is not only that books are better but that the older the book, the dustier the book, the more difficult to read and challenging the book...the more in line with CM it must be and therefore, better.  If a child (or parent for that matter) struggles with the selections, the amount, the complexity, the language of this wide variety of literature selections, the advice often given is to dig your heels in and plow through it. :(

Let's take a moment and go ahead and put books in their place. They are books. Just books. Nothing more than books.

With regards to CM, the best of the best were to be carefully chosen and used as a tool to widen our children's world.  (I'll add here that the best of the best didn't stop being written in the early 1900's. Older is not necessarily better. Just saying.) But let's put things into some perspective. What I personally pull from the Charlotte Mason method is not how a child's entire education revolved around the use of whole and living books.  I know it can seem that way perhaps at first glance, but take the time to look deeper.  

She emphasized forming relationships and making connections with people, things and ideas.  She emphasized learning from an abundance of real life, hands-on experiences - not just great literature. I don't get the impression she would have ever advocated learning something from a book over going out and experiencing it for yourself, first hand.  You really just can't get any more hands-on than the Charlotte Mason method. :)

So there. Books settled nicely into their proper place. A tool. One of many. :) 

Museums, trips, travel, nature walks, games, handicrafts, real-life, hands-on activities and experiences, a variety of whole and living books - and one of our family's favorite tools, documentaries.  While a lot of CM purists would seem to shun the use of technology, I feel Charlotte Mason would have been absolutely over the moon at the wide variety of fantastic documentaries we have available to us.  History, science, name it. There is most definitely an abundance of breathtaking, "living" documentaries out there.  

If our goal is to widen and expand our children's world, to put them in touch with the best of the best, let's use all the wonderful resources available to us. Let's provide our children with a buffet of resources, materials and experiences - with a living, breathing education. 

Go ahead, expand your world...keep calm and step away from the books. 

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  1. I loved your post :) and I totally agree.

  2. I love books but I also love other kinds of resources. I too can imagine Charlotte Mason viewing a living documentary with her class... and then discussing it afterwards. I've heard of homeschoolers who restrict their books to those on Charlotte's list. What a lot they miss out on staying in the past.

    Interesting post!